Wool classers proud and passionate about the industry are being hampered by a “poor and unsafe” work environment also making it difficult to retain staff, according to an “alarming” industry survey. Australian Wool Exchange gauged the thoughts of professional wool classers nationwide in 2022-23, with the findings labelled “concerning” by the organisation’s chair Andreas Clark. It aimed to capture the thoughts of as many of the nation’s 14,000-plus wool classers as possible to “understand the working environment they witness on a daily and weekly basis”. “There was a clear message from classers that they are passionate and proud of the wool industry and the part they play in it,” Mr Clark said. “(But) a poor and unsafe workplace environment is impacting the industry’s ability to attract and retain new staff. “Maintaining a positive and safe culture in the wool shed is paramount to attracting new staff to the wool industry. “Messages of zero tolerance are important to signal the level of concern and seriousness we, as an industry, have towards issues that impact the culture and future of the wool shed workforce.” AWEX chief executive Mark Grave said the survey results — completed in November last year — were “alarming”, with a focus on structural and cultural issues. “The conditions they are being met with is not what any of us would accept as reasonable working conditions in any sphere of employment,” he said. “Structural issues are the most easily fixed being improved and maintained facilities such as the wool shed, toilets, floorboards in the shed, and so on. “The most difficult to fix are the cultural issues including drugs, alcohol, bullying and harassment.” Mr Grave said the board regarded the survey results and “issues” within industry as one of the most serious and high priority tasks on its agenda and urged members to support the cause.